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Diakite set for Sunderland move

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Thu, 30 May 2013 18:51:00

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli will experiment with his side in Friday night's friendly with San Marino in Bologna.

The Azzurri face the minnows and then the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier a week later before heading to Brazil for the Confederations Cup.

Friday's result is not in doubt against a team ranked joint 207th and last by FIFA, but Prandelli is keen to find out some more about his squad.

The coach said on the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) website: "We wanted this game because our programme has consisted of four days of work with double training sessions and I needed a test to try new players and see if they can fit in at a tactical level quickly for the Confederations Cup."

Italy face Brazil, Japan and first Mexico in their group at the Confederations Cup, with their opening game on June 16, but Prandelli wants the immediate focus to remain on preparing for the Czech Republic game.

"Up to June 7, I want to speak about the Czech Republic, for me that is the most important game. Now talk about the Confederations Cup may be just an annoyance," added Prandelli, who will name his squad for the tournament on June 3.

He has some injury doubts for Friday's game, but AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who was yesterday ruled out with back pain, could be fit to play after all.

Prandelli said: "Mario has trained well today, some time with the ball, and I think that he may be available. (Stephan) El Shaarawy, (Riccardo) Montolivo and (Andrea) Barzagli, however, will not be in the game.

The Azzurri go into the busy summer riding high in their World Cup qualifying group. They sit three points clear at the top of Group B with a game in hand over second-placed Bulgaria. The Czechs are two points further back in third.

Friday's match has being used to further the fight against racism, with the captains of both teams to due read out statements before kick-off.

FIGC director general Antonello Valentini said: "We take this opportunity to ask for a civil commitment on the part of all the newspapers, radio and

television, because our game will be dedicated to the fight against racism.

"Present will be the minister for integration Kyenge Cecile, who accepted our invitation."

The 33-year-old Aston Villa defender is in line to play some part in the Republic of Ireland's friendly clash with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday in what will be his first appearance in competitive football since last June.

Should he emerge unscathed, Dunne could also find himself involved in some capacity in the following Friday night's World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands at the same venue in what would represent a remarkable turnaround for one of Trapattoni's most dependable performers.

Asked if Dunne would figure against the Georgians, the Italian said: "Yes, sure. I have already said probably he will play some time in the game.

"Whether it's better to start or better to play when later in the game, we will have to decide. We will speak with him, but sure he has the possibility to play."

Dunne has not managed a single appearance for either club or country since last summer's Euro 2012 finals because of a combination of groin and hip injuries, and has undergone three bouts of surgery in a bid to regain his fitness.

However, the former Manchester City man, who is out of contract at Villa Park at the end of next month, joined up with his international team-mates in London at the weekend and has stepped up his training in recent days to the point where Trapattoni is ready to grant his wish and throw him back into the fray.

Dunne was a spectator at Wembley last night as the Republic battled out a 1-1 friendly draw with England, and captain Robbie Keane revealed the centre-back's desperation to return after the final whistle.

Keane said: "I know he wants to. I have been rooming with him, so I know he is desperate to play.

"It's been a frustrating season for him. Obviously he hasn't played since the Euros, so I know how much it means to him.

"To come back and hopefully even play 20 minutes or something like that would certainly be good for his confidence, and to see where he is himself because it's been a tough year for him with his injury.

"It's not nice to be out, certainly for that long. I have been very lucky in my career never to be out for any more than four or five weeks, so I could never imagine what it would be like to be out for a year.

"I'd be pulling my hair out."

Left-back Marc Wilson, who missed last night's game with a calf problem, will be given a chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Faroes' visit to Dublin, although there will be no place for key midfielder Glenn Whelan, who will be rested ahead of the qualifier.

That will leave at least one vacancy in midfield with Trapattoni indicating he will make changes, and that could mean a rare opportunity for Norwich's Wes Hoolahan, who was among the unused substitutes at Wembley.

Many commentators have repeatedly bemoaned the manager's reluctance to give the 31-year-old a run in the team, but he revealed he is considering him as an option for this weekend.

Asked if he would be involved, Trapattoni said: "I have to think again. Probably, yes, probably.

"But we have to think again because we have also [Jeff] Hendrick. Whelan will have a rest because it's important for Whelan to have a rest before the Faroes at this moment. He has had a very tough season.

"But Wes could be, sure, one of the two midfielders. Could be."

The squad reconvened at their Malahide training base this afternoon with several nursing knocks, although Trapattoni is hopeful that all are minor problems.

He said: "Whelan is one and there are another two or three, but we will get a clearer picture later in this evening."

Goalkeeper David Forde joined the men who played against England in a gentle stroll around the training pitch with his right knee bandaged, although Trapattoni later suggested that deputies Keiren Westwood and Darren Randolph could both be involved on Sunday.

The two clubs have reached agreement on a fee for the French 26-year-old and he looks set to be one of the first signings made by boss Paolo Di Canio, as he looks to re-shape the squad.

Everton and Liverpool have also been linked with Diakite, who fell out of favour somewhat at Lazio last season.

Signed from Pescara at the end of the 2005/06 season, Diakite has made 83 appearances for the Italian side, scoring twice.

Di Canio took over as Sunderland boss towards the end of the season and, having kept them in the top flight, now appears determined to revamp the squad he inherited from Martin O'Neill.

Young Altrincham striker Duncan Watmore has already been added to the development squad, and the Black Cats are also believed to be closing in on deals for Basle midfielder Cabral and Martimo defender Valentin Roberge.

Defence is likely to be a priority for Di Canio this off-season because Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon are due to formally part company with the club when their contracts expire at the end of the month, while loan signing Danny Rose has returned to Spurs.

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